Tamil Nadu's Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has indicated that though Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami has categorically ruled out return of VK Sasikala to the party, he feels it can be considered.
"She spent four years in prison. She was with and served Amma (Jayalalithaa) for 32 years. Just on humane consideration, I think if she accepts the present set-up of the party under a chief coordinator and his deputy, we could consider her return,'' he has said.
That is a 180 degree turn by Mr Panneerselvam, who, in February 2017, had resigned as the Chief Minister and sat on a "dharmayuddham (battle for righteousness)" at Jayalalithaa's memorial, apparently protesting the leadership style of Sasikala.
"The party does not function for an individual or a family," Mr Panneerselvam said while admitting that his boss had categorically ruled out her return to the party.
Mr Panneerselvam, who heads the party while Mr Palaniswami heads the government, said this in an interview to a local Tamil channel. He also said he had no anger or regret or disappointment in Ms Sasikala.
"Even at that time when I sat on a protest at Amma's memorial, I did not say I doubted her," he claimed.
The Deputy Chief Minister said he respected both Ms Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, who incidentally recommended him to Jayalalithaa over 20 years ago and played a part in his rise. Mr Panneerselvam had replaced Mr Dhinakaran as the treasurer of the AIADMK in 2007.
Ms Sasikala, who recently returned after serving a 4-year jail term following her conviction in the disproportionate assets case in which te late chief minister Jayalalithaa was the prime accused, has announced that she will stay away from politics.
"Whether she will choose to return to politics is her decision. Only she can decide," Mr Panneerselvam had told Thanthi TV.
Mr Panneerselvam's turnaround on Ms Sasikala could be linked to his own political future. He belongs to the same Thevar community as Ms Sasikala, and her return would strengthen the community and brighten his political prospects.
Whereas Mr Palaniswami belongs to Gounder caste, which has been gaining in influence under him.
Though Mr Panneerselvam rebelled against Ms Sasikala, he is said to have subsequently mended fences with her and was in favour of her return to the party fold. But Mr Palaniswami, who was made Chief Minister by her, took a strong stand against her return and vetoed it, even resisting pressure from the BJP.
On his relationship with the Chief Minister, with whom there have been reports of a constant power struggle, Mr Panneerselvam pointed out that he himself had proposed the name of Mr Palaniswami for chief ministerial candidate.
"In politics, there are some compromises. You have to be willing to sacrifice. EPS wanted to be chief minister. We discussed it and then I myself proposed his name,'' he said.